August 16, 2010

Just Getting Started

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I live in a rabbit warren of a house in Seattle, Washington.  My backyard borders a small private cemetery.  When I first moved in, I put a gate in my back fence so I could slip into my own private park and walk around whenever I wanted to.  I love my quiet neighbors.  I’ve twice had to sell houses and move because of neighbors who had relocated from hell.

The cemetery is a sanctuary for city animals.  What with the neighborhood cats, the squirrels, opossums, raccoons, rats, moles, and birds, there are spontaneous episodes of Animal Planet nearly every day.  The other day I watched a raccoon carry something furry through my yard.  I called my neighbor, Gwen, who knows something about nearly everything.

“Do raccoons eat rats or opossums?”

“Nope. They’re not carnivorous.”

Before too long, here came the raccoon again with something furry in its mouth.  It came from across the street, into my front gate, through my side yard.  I decided, given the color and texture of the furry thing that it must be a baby raccoon.

“Now why is that raccoon dragging her baby all over town?” I wondered.

By the time I saw it the third time, I realized it was not the same baby.  The mother was evidently ferrying her young to what she felt was a safer home.  I hope they are now comfortably ensconced in a generous cemetery tree and not in the yard where they keep the grave digging equipment.

At sunset, my cats—Winston, Artemis, and Freud– set up lawn chairs facing the cemetery wall, mix up a batch of mai tais and get ready for the nightly show.  For a first act, an opossum’s nose may appear and a body will heave itself over the fence, followed by 3 or 4 little noses and bodies.  They strut along the top of the fence like the Rockettes.  The raccoons then come through a hole I have cut in the fence, a hole that creates a thoroughfare for everything in the neighborhood with four legs.  They tumble around the yard, play with the rubber ducks in the bird bath, and for the denouement, they tip over the bath and run off to vandalize someone else’s property.  A few squirrels chatter in lieu of bird song to close the show.  Winston, Freud and Artemis come in, drunk, and whine at me to give them something to eat.

My cats have understandings with the wildlife in the neighborhood.  With the raccoons and opossums, I believe relations are amicable and consensual.  The arrangements with the birds and rodents are a bit more ominous and are stories for another day.

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